I helped organize a forum this morning for the distribution of a report Terrorism: A Brief for Americans by businessman Richard Vague at an early morning meeting in the Senate. Despite the ridiculousness of sending out the invite the evening before, we got a respectable audience there by 9 am.
(Photo Credit: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer)
What is odd is that I then dropped in on the “Strategic Context of Iraq” hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee featuring Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski and there was not a packed house.
If I organized a meeting with a few senators and Brzezinski and Scowcroft, I could probably draw over 1000 attendees on a day’s notice. But at this meeting, the chairs for observers were only about half full, maybe less. Washingtonians can learn and see a lot by attending hearings of this type. And today was a useful and important meeting — though I was able to get out the Brzezinski testimony yesterday.
I got there just as Scowcroft was finishing and after what I heard was a rather testy, hard-hitting exchange between Senator Chuck Hagel and Scowcroft.
My understanding is that Scowcroft was trying to resist calling the President’s “surge” of forces deployed in Iraq a complete loser. Scowcroft finally yielded, I am told (as I was not yet there), and said:
I do not believe we need more American troops because I want to get out of this sectarian mess.
Folks should know that while they certainly pushed and shoved each other a bit in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing room, Scowcroft and Hagel are basically on the same page and both are deeply alarmed about the precipitous decline in American influence globally and severely mismanaged foreign policy and national security portfolios.
In the hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden acquitted himself well — as did Richard Lugar — who both emphasized that many are just focusing on troops “staying or leaving;” “all in or all out” as Lugar said — when Brzezinski emphasized that it is the deal-making with regional stakeholders that is important and which specifying a date for troop withdrawal would help precipitate.
Joe Biden will be speaking to the country and his supporters on a webcast tonight at 8 p.m. if you would like to check in with the latest.
On other resolute front, Senators Christopher Dodd and Russell Feingold have sent out word that they plan to oppose the newly crafted bipartisan Iraq War Resolution. They argue that though the resolution opposes a surge in troops, it doesn’t go far enough to curtail the President’s actions and to bring the war to a close.
Both Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden are supporting the resolution whose primary sponsors are Carl Levin and John Warner. Warner dropped language that would have made the resolution easier for the White House to ignore.
Hagel and Biden both think that they were able to navigate Warner over with a healthy compromise that has now resulted in the first bipartisan resolution from the Senate against the President’s further escalation of the Iraq War. So, this is a win for Biden and Hagel — but one sees why Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold are holding out for more.
Just fyi, this is Chris Dodd’s presidential campaign website.
I may see Dodd tomorrow at the DNC retreat and am going to ask him to repeat (for audio recording) an anecdote that he once shared with me about when he first met Katherine Hepburn. It’s better “heard” than read as his imitation of Hepburn’s “Why??!!” is hilarious. But here’s the quip from Chris Dodd:
There are a lot of people who are renowned who live in this state and not very far from here is Katherine Hepburn, who lives in Old Saybrook.
I’d never met Katherine Hepburn although I’d seen her on numerous occasions. I live in a town a couple of villages away from her, but never intruded upon her privacy. Her former brother-in-law is a wonderful. friend of mine, Ellsworth Graham.
He used to be the mayor of West Hartford, Connecticut. I’ve known Ellsworth for years, a delightful person, a great person, a great individual. He’s probably Katherine’s age.
“About two or three months ago,” Dodd continues, “I stopped to see Ellsworth in Old Saybrook. As I was walking up the back steps of his home, the door opened and there’s Ellsworth standing with Katherine Hepburn. We’re standing about three feet away from each other.
And Ellsworth, in a very loud voice (he didn’t have his listening device in) said ‘Chris, would you like to meet Katherine Hepburn?” Well, what am I going to say. . .she’s standing right here, so I say, ‘Of course I’d be delighted to meet Miss Hepburn.’ He turned to Katherine in an equally loud voice end said “Would you like to meet Senator Dodd?” And Katherine, without looking at me at all, her little heed shaking said ‘Why?’
“It’ll show you how life in public office is these days. . .”
This was hilarious when I heard him recite the memory in person — at a screening for his favorite film, A Man for All Seasons.
In the business policy world, Martin Walker who was once the Bureau Chief for The Guardian newspaper in Washington and was editor of UPI as well as a Senior Fellow at both the World Policy Institute and the Wilson Center, has become the Senior Director of AT Kearney’s “Global Business Dialogue.” Walker is one of Washington’s best wordsmiths and essayists and has been unforgiving in his critique of the Bush foreign policy team on shows such as the McLaughlin Group.
– Steve Clemons